I have to admit, besides renting cars, apartments and homes, I've not been a big renter of anything. But after learning about Zilok, which formally launched its U.S. service Monday, the thought of renting over buying, has crossed my mind. Zilok is a platform for anyone to rent anything - from power tools, fancy cars, digital cameras, to vacation homes. There are about 15,000 items, and growing, on the site.
Since building a critical mass is key to the company's future, Zilok has instituted viral features that will help drive more people to the site. For instance, on the second page of the sign-up, you're asked to invite your friends, on the email you signed up with, to the Zilok community. Zilok encourages its users to "help" build the community. Additionally, Zilok has an "affiliate" program whereby the people you invite become your affilates. You can earn money off of your affiliates if they rent stuff.
It's a bit Amway, and negative social connotations around this
strategy. But it works.
I have to admit, certain items for rent are puzzling to me. Who would want to rent an ordinary handbag for $22 a day? I can see someone renting expensive jewelry, like a Rolex, if they want to impress someone. I can see renting someone's golf clubs for $10 a day, rather than pay $45 to $75, which is what I've been charged at golf courses while I'm on vacation. But a non-distinct handbag? (I did ask the renter what was so special about this bag. I'll comment on this story once I hear back.) Zilok U.S. general manager Jeff Boudier also tells me that the most popular item for rent is a digital camera. Again, something that mystifies me. Watch our interview.
Additionally, there are some geography challenges Zilok faces. For instance, I tried to rent golf clubs in La Jolla. Unfortunately, I only found one set available for rent. They were in San Francisco.
Still, Zilok rates high with me on many counts. For one, it's a fairly easy-to-use site. Despite the geography challenges and trust issues it faces early on, it still has a good chance of becoming a pretty robust and useful service. I tried to rent a lawn mower over the weekend. I found several located one mile to where I live in the East Bay. The process was simpIe. For a renter, you have to have some insurance policy to cover what you rent. I'm assuming homeowner's insurance will suffice. Zilok takes a fee (you can use PayPal or credit cards) until the person renting the item agrees to rent to you.
I may not be renting other people's stuff today. Nor do I plan on renting what I own in the near future.
But if the viral marketing takes off, I wouldn't be surprised if one of my relatives invites me to be on Zilok and encourages me to rent the stuff in my garage.